Wednesday, January 7, 2009 acquired by Hearst, EGM closes, staff laid off

It's a sad day for gamers everywhere, particularly me, and I hate to make it about me, but, well, it is my birthday, and to wake up to a news story posted on my favorite video game web site saying they'd been purchased by Hearst Publications (who run was not the most celebratory thing. However, I'd heard rumors, figured it was coming, and when I read the surprisingly pleasant text, it didn't seem so bad. Comments left by other perusers, though, left me confused. They were angry, talking about closures and staff lay-offs. Where was this in the article?, I wondered, left a pissy remark to that effect, and blasted someone else for making a rude statement about my pal Jeremy Parish. I read the article twice, saw no mention of any, well, change, shrugged, and moved on, all the while wondering why I still felt so upset.

But alas, I ran into some other posts, particularly this one at Chris Kohler's Game Life. If Chris says it, it dawned on me it had to be true. A magazine with a 20-year run, and one of the last great gaming publications, Electronic Gaming Monthly, has been shut down. Not only was the January 2009 issue, which I'd already devoured, going to be the last, but February's, which is already completed and I've been checking my mailbox daily for, is never going to be delivered.

I'd heard rumors to the effect that EGM was closing. I was prepared for it. UGO doesn't want a print publication, I know. They just want, and who wouldn't? Ziff-Davis (the parent company) wants to sell, they want to buy, and after Games for Windows magazine (which was a reboot of extremely long-running Computer Gaming World, another I'd read in my youth) stopped printing, it seemed likely. I was prepared for EGM to close, but it still stings. I was up late last night re-reading the August 2008 issue, actually, and I'd just renewed my subscription in December.

What I wasn't prepared for is a supposedly authoritative list from of folks who are now being laid off. That's some unexpectedly cold water to the face. I immediately scanned it up and down, like a mother looking for the name of her son on a list of casualties. My son (Garnett Lee--okay, bad analogy) was not on the list, and I'm glad, but so many of my son's friends (okay, yeah, really bad analogy) show up, longtime staffers who I've been reading for years upon years, idolized, and been inspired by, names I'd seen in print and on the internet constantly, and some younger newcomers of whom I've become extremely fond.

It would be difficult to write each name that's had an impact upon me, because I'd (truly) be re-typing almost the entire set, and to single out just a few would be unjust. Still, maybe one wouldn't hurt. Most depressing is that Shane Bettenhausen, someone I've looked up to as an outstanding journalist and whose inspiration (along with Garnett Lee's and others) is in no small part responsible for this blog, has been apparently given the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere.

Shane (at left) with a fan at PAX 2007

Yet, with all the bad news, there is hope. Many of my favorites were not on the list of casualties, and Sam Kennedy has been pretty optimistic (although it's his job to be) in unofficial posts (as reported again by Joystiq) since. He believes Hearst/UGO stepped in when no one else would to "save" 1UP. They were losing money, and if not for them, Ziff might have just shut down 1UP entirely. He also believes that, in the near future, staff members who were let go will be re-hired at 1UP. I certainly hope that's the case. I, personally, think that individuals of such outstanding talent will have no problem finding work elsewhere; I would just prefer for them to all be in one place. Oh, how we humans despise change.

This whole thing is especially personal to me. I've been reading EGM since I was a child (10? 11?), and I can still remember their huge, blowout issues when I was in grade school. I'd sling those things around in my backpack everyday and read them at recess. I've also harbored fantasies for a long time about working at 1UP, but now, if I'm ever given that awesome chance, how many of my heroes will still be there? Maybe I'll never get the opportunity to say, "Hey, your work really meant something to me." Maybe 1UP won't even be there anymore. While Sam Kennedy is hopeful, he almost has to be. Jeff Green, on the other hand, another hero of mine, is not so happy at all.

Maybe this really is the end.

I'd actually planned a rather large article for today about localization versus translation of Japanese games, but to write about anything besides 1UP would be misplaced and disloyal, not to mention it would have been an extreme effort to muster. This is a day of mourning. Happy birthday to me, happy... whatever day it is... to 1UP. :(
If you're really gone, there are no words to describe the huge loss to the industry and your readers.

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